We May Be In A Different Era, But Old Perceptions Still Exist
Take it from me an entrepreneur and 38-year Executive in the DoD Industry; "Your Look Matters." Yes, I am also an African American male who has operated in management and executive level roles for the past 23 years. As a hiring manager over that timeframe hiring senior personnel with salaries between $130K - $200K, I believe I am uniquely qualified to speak on this subject.
I have heard many ideologies over my 38 years regarding whether your clothes and look matter. My professional opinion is a resounding "Yes" it does matter. I've heard people say; it shouldn't matter what you look like, but whether you can do the job, or why should I have to change or adjust my look just to conform; why can't I just be myself. I actually agree with those positions, but want to be very clear; every business has a right to hire individuals that will represent the company the way the company wants to be represented. Let me ask you a question? Which pictured individual below would you hire to perform your required surgery, Why? In this example you truly don't know if the doctor pictured on the left is truly a Doctor that can do the job or whether the Doctor is truly on the right just dressed up as a carpenter. The fact is in approximately 1 minute you will size up an individual just on their looks or appearance as to whether you believe they can do the job. This is done through perception and other factors I will not have time to address in today's blog.
Why is this fact important, because during an interview when the scales are even; same education, experience, and credentials, the decision may get down to just perception from the hiring manager or team as to who they believe is a better fit. While I am not saying the clothes and appearance will be the primary factor for the decision, it is the first thing a hiring manager sees.
Personally, I have experienced this. Years ago, I had a candidate come in for an interview for a six-figure position. On arrival his shirt was wrinkled, no blazer, no tie but very casually dressed. While he may have wanted to feel comfortable, my initial perception was not good. Within 10 seconds of seeing him, I had already drawn a conclusion that he was not the type person I was looking to hire to represent the company. Ironically, he may have been the best hire ever, but we will never know because he couldn't get through the 1st gate. My perception.
"Your Look Matters", while it may only get you through the 1st gate when applying for a new position, it is probably the most important gate. Furthermore, the perception element is magnified when you're a minority. Not only do you have to fight for the equality of opportunity, the scrutiny on looks and appearance is even more imperative. Therefore, minorities need to ensure you remove any opportunity to disqualify you.
The laws for equal opportunity can only cover obvious infractions, but here are a few new ways to disqualify candidates based on someone's perception that at face value would pass any audit.
Candidate is over qualified
Candidate displayed low energy level lacked enthusiasm for the position
Candidate missing relevant experience
Candidate over energetic
The point is, if your appearance sets a negative perception, there are many ways to legitimately disqualify you from the opportunity. Why take that chance. Present yourself in a manner in which any company will see you in a positive light and one where without prejudice or doubt cannot disqualify you from your dream opportunity.
Your Look Does Matter!!!